One of my fave writers, AB Sulaiman, has done it again, with another of his usually penetrating observations in Malaysiakini’s Deficiency in intellectual honesty.
It’s a very well written article, typical of him, and I've picked on one of his points to blog.
He relates to us Utusan’s instigating fabrication in its anti-communist (and anti-Chinese) propaganda through the cartoons of illustrator Hamzah Mohd Amin.
AB Sulaiman tells us that: Among the most controversial of his [Hamzah Mohd Amin] artwork is a depiction of slant-eyed men in tan-coloured uniforms, waving weapons and forcing a group of Malay-looking (therefore Muslim) people to eat pork.
Sulaiman quotes Hamzah Mohd Amin stating: "Today's generation does not know the hardships of life during the communist era. I worked to create the drawings a few weeks ago, so that they will be able to picture the cruelty of the communist and why we hate them. Through the drawings, I hope that they will realise the cruelty of the communists and learn from it.”
AB Sulaiman interprets for us the sinister intention of the illustrated fabrications:
The message in turn was clear enough: The standard stereotype that the communists were inflicting untold cruelty on gentle and pious (Malay-Muslim) citizens. The communists were taken as wholly Chinese: so hate the Chinese! Hate the communists! Also, wake up Malays and defend your agama, bangsa dan negara against the marauding Chinese and communists!
Though AB Sulaiman tells us the Utusan’s (and thus presumably UMNO’s) propaganda was “… all hogwash of course,” he added that “…until the recent past such sentiments were in vogue.”
By “the recent past” AB Sulaiman implies the advent/availability of the worldwide web and its online media, websites and bloggers, etc, and other information exchanging facilities such as Twitter and Facebook, to provide us with alternative views.
Thus “easily available information” is the enemy of liars, propagandists and agitators, and that’s why UMNO and its cronies want to control information.
They were successful in the past by use of various means, including the threat implicit in the PPPA, but today they feel somewhat lost with the new almost-uncontrollable online media - maybe only temporarily until they too emulate and master the West’s wicked media manipulating machinations, where, for example, an Arab assassinating a Westerner or Jew is an evil terrorist Islamic militant while an Israeli assassinating an Arab or even an European or Americans (e.g. Rachel Corrie, Furkan Dogan, Tom Hurndall, Tristan Anderson, Caoimhe Butterly) would be a steely-eyed brave, resolute and brave defender of freedom and democracy or at worst, wasn’t aware of the presence or identity of the person killed.
But I want to add something else, another sad ingredient that facilitates the acceptance of such UMNO-type of hogwash. AB Sulaiman alludes to it subtly but kaytee will specify it bluntly – namely, our innate ethnic prejudice, racial bias or/and bigoted stereotyping.
We want to believe the bad in ‘others’, the worst in ‘them’. It’s not just Malays being biased towards Chinese/Indians but also Chinese thinking the Malays/Indians are the pits, and likewise the Indians vis-à-vis Malays/Chinese.
With some exceptions, we have become so because (a) we were brought up like so in our remarkable Malaysian environment, (b) we have become captive to our own tribal prejudices, and (c) we have been brainwashed by unscrupulous politicians, teachers, etc.
Just one example - I have written on this one before - picture this movie scene where Pakcik Daud, a silver-hair dignified looking, well groomed, handsomely moustached patrician, immaculate in his evening dress (complete with brown polka-dot cravat), comfortably seated on his magnificent armchair in a beautiful bungalow lounge room (or airy colonial styled veranda), puffing contentedly and contemplatively away on his briar pipe – the patrician thinks carefully before he removes his pipe, waves it in a gentle arc to signal he is about to make a pronouncement, then in his cool soft-spoken and soothing articulation, advises on how to resolve a village issue which has plagued the village multi-ethnic residents. His statement is succinct, considerate, fair, balanced, and compassionate.
Cut away to another scene and you get Ah Chong, the local fat flabby flatulent-ridden grocer, sweating away like a you-know-what, in dirty singlet and shorts and with a dodgy dacing, quarrelsome in his loud raucous argumentative voice, gesturing vigorously and rudely, and hawking once or twice in total arrogant biadap-ish disregard for his customers ...
... and there is Arumugam, the village clown squatting in his dhoti, skinny, unshaven, smelly, sly, sneaky, servile, smarmy, sleazy, picking his nose and speaking in inelegant loud rapid-fire Tamil while expectorating globs of red lime coloured sputum all over ...
Guess in which language movie we would likely see the above scenes?
Don’t worry, there are Chinese and Indian equivalents as well.
The point is: Can we arrest our own prejudice, bias, bigotry and stereotyping?
AB Sulaiman has shown us how he as a Malaysian has dealt with Utusan’s evil fabrications.
So what would you Malaysians do when you read an email circular that indulges in the worst possible lies and biased generalisations to badmouth, for example, Malays/Muslims?
The worst racist demon lies quietly within each of us.